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Often in times of suffering, our greatest enemy is not the person or the circumstance causing us to suffer, but our own spirits who deal with the person or circumstance in an ungodly manner. One of the marks of a maturing Christian is their ability to remain patient when facing tribulation. Those who taut the sovereignty of God as those who believe in the Reformed faith do, ought also be able to suffer well.
So as we study James 5:7-12 this morning I want us to see four aspects of patience—four active traits that we ought to develop that will help us to maintain patience in the moments of suffering. These four are: trust, tranquility, treasure, and truth-telling.
James wrote that we need to be patient. And patience means that we need to trust. Specifically, we need to trust God. “Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patent about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also be patient. Establish you hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand,” (James 5.7-8, ESV).
See, our trust is in the Lord. He is the Sovereign of the universe. We trust in Him. We become anxious when we trust in earthly things—things that are transitory or temporary.
In James 4.13, James told the businessmen not to go out and make plans, leaving God out of the equation. He told them not to compartmentalize God out of those plans. It could be that their plans do not coincide with God’s plans. When that happens, God’s plans will win the day. But it will leave us in a state of despair.
Here James wrote that our trust is not to be in our plans. It’s not to be in things that are not guaranteed. Our trust is to be in the only guarantee we have: Jesus. But we must wait on Jesus. He is the Master; we are the servants. We wait on him; He doesn’t wait on us (by wait, I mean time, not service). The farmer waits on the rain, not the rain on the farmer. He goes out and does what he is to do; he plants. But when he plants, he is then stuck with waiting. The farmer calculates waiting into his plans.
We often do not. We have plans and our plans rarely include waiting. We have no margin in our schedules and plans for waiting. Do you want to know if you have compartmentalized God out of your plans? Take a look and see how much waiting you allow in those plans.
When we don’t wait upon the Lord, then we can often get a bit snippy with people, especially people that we love, like our fellow-believers. James wrote, “Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold the Judge is standing at the door,” (James 5.9, ESV).
All too often in the midst of our suffering, we are tempted to point fingers and place blame. It is so easy to think and to say that is so and so hadn’t done such and such I wouldn’t have done this and that. And so we show our inner-Adam. “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me the fruit of the tree, and I ate it,” (Gen. 3.12, ESV). If she hadn’t given it to me, I wouldn’t have been forced to eat it. Wrong. One person’s sin does not justify a counter-sin. You and I don’t get to pass the buck just because someone did something first. We learned that as little kids. “Chris! Did you just hit your sister?” “She hit me first!” “Two wrongs, don’t make a right.” We learned that as a kid. For most of us, the lesson didn’t stick.
As we grow in patience, the blame-game begins to lessen. We stop groaning and complaining about our fellow believers. Patience means having a tranquil spirit when it comes to our brothers and sisters in Christ. Like Adam, when we begin to grumble against each other, we are actually grumbling against God. The woman whom you gave to me. We make up the body of Christ and must act as one unit.
We act like Jesus doesn’t see the wrong that our brothers and sisters are doing. We feel like we have to take matters into our own hands. But look at what James wrote, “behold, the Judge is standing at the door.” That’s a two-fold warning. It first warns us against taking pock-shots at our brothers and sisters. James wrote, “Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.” In other words, Jesus is seeing your grumbling. Don’t do it. He’s right over there and sees it all. You aren’t getting away with it. You’re going to be called into account. But the second part of the warning is to them, but it is also a comfort to us if we have been wronged by the brother or sister. Jesus is there. He sees. He hears.
As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful, (James 5.10-11, ESV).
Suffering is nothing new. It didn’t all of a sudden just pop up in your life or in my life. Suffering has been around since the fall of Adam and Eve. There have been people who have suffered badly like Levi and Simeon or Absalom, but then again there are those who suffered well, like Joseph, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and as James pointed out: Job.
We ought to go back on days when we are hurting and days when the world seems to against us and reread the Scriptures. Reread how the men and women of old were able to persevere through their struggles.
And finally, James instructs us not to swear. The context of this is not speaking about being in a court of law, but being amidst conflict, oppression, or suffering. It is very easy to get flustered and swear. “I swear to God, I swear on my mother’s grave, I swear by all that is holy, I swear…” Don’t do that, James commands. “But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth, or by any other oath, but let your ‘yes’ be yes and your ‘no’ be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation,” (James 5.12, ESV).
Above all! More than trusting; more than tranquility; more than treasuring: tell the truth. Do not swear. James gets this command straight from Jesus in Matthew 5:37. Jesus was telling the people that it doesn’t matter what you swear by, you are bringing God into the matter. What difference is there between swearing by God or swearing by the stuff God owns. By incorporating anything else, you are bringing God into testify on your behalf. Don’t do that. No one is innocent enough to subpoena God on their behalf.
Simply let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no. In other words, your life should be lived in such a way that when you answer a question, there should be no doubt that you are telling the truth. A Christian is not to hem-haw around questions. He isn’t to live a life of half-truths or of hypocrisy. It is to be a trust-worthy life. Always be a truth-teller, so that you never have to swear.